At some point during the early days of our relationship, I'm pretty sure I made a gleefully carefree statement to your father about "having a million children" with him. I think many young women do in the throes of early love (and perhaps after a few cocktails). I was in my twenties and everything was so easy. The future was bright, and complication-free.
Of course, as the years wore on, we grew up and our goals became more realistic. Not "a million" children, but we'd certainly have kids. Our life plan was never formalized, however, a trademark of our lifestyle I've come to truly appreciate. As a couple, we've never put deadlines on major life decisions. On minor items? Sure. Your dad especially is good at employing innovative productivity measures to ensure we RSVP to a wedding or declutter a drawer by a certain date.
But as far as the bigger picture, our style is more geared towards taking things as they come.
This can be frustrating sometimes, even when the situation is beyond our control. We've been in a state of limbo for a few years now as we contemplate the eventual end of your father's post at Yale, and wonder where he'll work next, wonder about my own career prospects and weigh the pros and cons of being open to relocating anywhere geographically, verses ensuring we live near family.
We're in our mid-thirties and I do like the question mark that accompanies our current life. It means we've got a lot to look forward to, and that keeps everything exciting.
But we're also ready to move on. I feel like it was all we thought about for a good long while.
For most of the past year, however, you've been a beautiful distraction.
I always imagined we'd have a third child. It's a strange decision. Everyone understands when you have one, and when you have your second, too, giving the first a little sibling.
When it comes to three, though, the reasoning gets tricky. You've got to be sure you're not doing it because you miss those snuggly newborn days, or because you're bored and want to make life a little more challenging. You've got to think about the future. Is this what you want your family to look like? Busy Thanksgiving dinners and family vacations. It's difficult to do when you're entwined in the trappings of early childhood, or at least it was for me.
Your father though - one of three himself - was good at envisioning the road ahead, and once we realized we both wanted to do this, it seemed silly to wait until we were settled in the next stage of life to have another child. Because who knew when that would be? Plus, as every parent knows, having a baby unsettles everything.
Then, suddenly - because suddenly seems to be the only way we know how to do this - I found myself tearfully telling your father in the parking lot outside his lab that I was pregnant. "How in the world could this happen so FAST?" It was like we'd barely made the decision before the decision was made for us. Your father told me we were "good at" reproducing. He seemed proud, which made me laugh, before I cried a little again.
Like I said, we take things as they come. So I calmed down, and soon my disbelief turned to gratefulness. We're very lucky.
I showed quickly the third time around, my body - "Oh, this again?" - familiar with the task at hand. I wore loose clothing so we could keep it a secret until the first trimester passed, wary of letting the kids know until we were on firm ground, and unwilling to tell certain family members (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) who'd been quick to spill the secret with the first two.
Then we started sharing the news. "We're crazy," we said, "we're having another!" Family members were overjoyed and friends wished us luck. We made a big deal out of telling your older sister and brother one morning, which turned out to be an amusing non-event. They didn't really care about the initial announcement. I think they were hungry.
But as the weeks passed and I got bigger, their excitement grew. After books at bedtime, they sang to you, adorable duets, often "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." They'd occasionally yell at each other during the performance - someone had started too early or got the words wrong - and I figured it was good you got used to their dynamic early.
Your father and I got excited, too. Knowing with full certainty the third time around how little you'd need in your first few months - and also not having much space to give in the home we'd soon be outgrowing - we focused not on baby preparations but on house and yard improvements we'd been neglecting and other domestic projects that had been put off.
Your dad turned our guest room-slash-office into a "relaxing room" complete with gossip magazines and serene lighting, and ordered me to go there to get away from the kids every now and then. I was doing hard work just being pregnant, and should rest, he said.
It was a good thing he did because you took your time and I needed the extra energy. Not as bad as your brother, who was nine days overdue, you were just six, but still, six. While I can't say I was pleasant during that extra almost-week of pregnancy, I did have some memorably happy moments with your older siblings, realizing there were our last days together as a compact family of four.
I've told people that your labor and birth was "easy," but quickly edit that statement to explain that it was "easy compared to the other two."
Contractions began at home and we shuttled your brother and sister off to their grandparents' (they were slightly more excited about going there than they were about your imminent arrival, a fact I will enjoy sharing with them when they are older). A few hours into the process my water broke as I was heading up to the bathroom, prompting me to sit down quickly mid-stairway and announce, "Ohmygod I think my water just broke, OR I wet my pants! But I think my water broke! I don't KNOW, I don't know my body right now!"
Your father adopted a calm voice. "I think your water probably broke, ok? Let's go to the hospital."
Again, it was "easy compared to the other two." Once escorted to a delivery room, contractions got more intense, closer together. When I asked for an epidural, there was an hour or so that passed before the anesthesiologist arrived, got everything ready and I actually got one. During that hour felt like I was going to pass out, and tried to welcome your father's offerings of a cool towel on my neck, while simultaneously contemplating a violent rebuke of his advances.
You know, easy. In the grand scheme of things.
Once pain relief was in full effect, it was almost time to push. The labor lasted eight hours; not the quickest of deliveries, but quicker than last time, and much quicker than the time before that.
My body did what it was supposed to this time and so did you. When the doctor conducted his last check he announced that I was fully dilated and you were "right there." Your brother and sister, please note, were not at all "right there" when they should have been, and I'll be forever singing your praises as the easiest arrival of my three.
Then it happened fast. The room wasn't prepared! Push! Now don't push! Push again! Just fifteen minutes or so and the doctor ordered, "Grab the baby!" and I pulled you up onto my chest and shouted "Hi!" I loved the medical staff. I loved your father. I loved you. We were all laughing.
For a moment we forgot one important factor. My doctor lifted you off my chest and pronounced, "A girl!" I knew it all along.
The first night in the hospital was marked by a quiet and calm usually absent from our lives. We held you close, waiting until morning - and annoying everyone in the process - to decide on your name. Adriana, to honor our Italian heritage. Plus, think of the nicknames.
Life got crazier from there. Visitors the next day, then home to our family of five - five! - plus two dogs, whose presence sometimes seems to tip our household capacity over the threshold. Your father took a full week off work, taking care of your siblings while I spent time taking care of you. Despite there being more children, this was the easiest week of parenting I've ever experienced.
The school year began and our honeymoon period was over. We needed to get into a groove - making lunches and laying out clothes and leaving on time in the morning - which is hard to do with a newborn. The situation wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd predicted, however. You eased your way into our schedule and habits and a new lifestyle emerged.
That doesn't mean we aren't getting used to it all. We can no longer distract ourselves with preparations related to your arrival, and have begun thinking about the future again, a necessary but often daunting activity, made more difficult by sleeplessness and the challenges that accompany having children, like catching colds and doing homework.
But, as it's always been, your father and I are good at looking forward to the smaller events along the way: an upcoming road trip, a cousin's wedding, a bustling Thanksgiving with family and friends.
As for the future, it'll come, and I have no doubt it will be great. He may not be sure about it all at this particular juncture, but your father's always had this optimistic certainty about life. When I met him, circumstances weren't ideal for our potential relationship. "It's ok," he said. "I'll wait."
It's the most comforting quality in the world, and while it may disappear occasionally, it always resurfaces. Common stress is no match.
In our most energetic moments, your father and I have endless plans, realistic and not, but always inspiring. We could move to Florida and it would always be warm! We could build a modern house with environmentally friendly features! We could land our dream careers! We could have a million children!
In reality, just three. exactly as we planned, even though we didn't always know how that would play out. Having you has opened life up in an exhilarating way. We did it. What's next?
Getting together with your dad was the same for me. I found him, and everything else was easier because of that.
Over the past few weeks I've been treasuring nearly every moment of your existence, knowing how quickly this newborn stage will pass.
Every once in awhile, though, I find myself awake and overtired in the middle of the night with you, fretting that I won't have the strength to perform the most minor of items the next day, as I think mothers often do
It lasts barely a minute, however, before I have the obvious realization that your father's there, too, just a foot away. Asleep. Snoring maybe, but we are in this together, and everything is more than alright. We've been uncertain but enthusiastic, content but waiting for what's to come, just like we were waiting for you. We are still all of those things, but you're finally here.
And now, we are complete.